Model Cars Posts

Drawing Conclusions: Steve Moye Recalls His Days as a Matchbox Designer

steve moye matchboxA couple weeks ago, we brought you the story of Rob Romash, Master Modelmaker for Matchbox in the early 2000s. His ability to translate sketches and technical drawings into perfect prototype carvings was amazing, and he was responsible for most of the castings of that era. Now, meet Steve Moye,  the creator of most of those designs. 
matchbox steve moye

Former Matchbox Senior Product Designer with one of his all time favorite creations.

Moye worked with Romash at Mattel in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, from 2000-2005 as the Senior Product Designer. “I worked on almost all of the non-licensed basic (3” long) Matchbox vehicles, plus launcher-type toy vehicles and two special marketing/packaging diecast-related toy products,” he said. “Also, during the last eight months of the Mt. Laurel operation, I was also responsible for the licensed 3” long vehicle design process, including selections and graphic decoration designs. Rob Romash and I had a very special designer-modelmaker relationship. In the five years that Rob and I worked together at Mattel, he always seemed able to translate my ideas into three-dimensional reality, many times on-the-fly, and always arriving at great aesthetic and functional solutions in a timely manner.”

Matchbox cars could be grouped into two categories: licensed designs (based on real cars or pre-existing designs from elsewhere), or unlicensed designs (newly imagined vehicles.) The key to the unlicensed cars was to make them plausible in function and aesthetics without stepping on any copyrights, while still giving these little rolling vehicles play and collector value and doing it mostly with three or four manufactured parts, for retail at $1.00 each. In other words, the designer’s responsibility was to create a vehicle that looks and rolls like a real-ish car, but not like any particular brand.

steve moye matchbox taxi 2

Moye worked on the sketches and technical drawings for most Matchbox 3″ offerings in the early 2000s, such as this Taxi.

One of the first steps to designing a new model was figuring out what exactly Matchbox wanted to offer for sale. “There would be internal discussions of what models in Matchbox’s 1-75 lineup were outgoing, where we had new opportunities for our offerings, and what we needed to replace,” he said. “We needed X number of cars to fulfill some new purpose, to fit into an overall marketing theme.” 

That’s when Steve’s task would begin. For licensed vehicles, straight interpretations of actual cars and trucks, there was no need to create concepts. “On those, the manufacturer would oftentimes submit a folder of photos and measurements; then, it was straight to tech drawings.” His ability to translate those materials was no doubt helped by his previous jobs in the design departments at Chrysler and Subaru. His understanding of automotive design, both engineering and aesthetic, made him a natural for model car design.

steve moye matchbox fire truck

Some designs translate from sketch to production without any discernible changes like this 4×4 Fire Truck.

Early on, Steve jumped pencil-first into projects in progress, and eventually became part of the Matchbox die-cast decision-making team, headed by Trevor Hayes, Rob Butkiewicz, Jim Carty and Berdj Mazmanian. “When I first started working at Mattel Mt. Laurel in early 2000, I didn’t have much leeway in selecting vehicle types because we were in a crunch to get the design process on already-approved vehicles going.” Moye said. “Eventually, I also became involved in the vehicle selection process, too. While a specific design was being created, I did have quite a bit of leeway in changing and improving aesthetics and functionality before a vehicle received its final mid-management and upper management review and approval.”

Another challenge at Mattel was to avoid stepping on toes at the company’s other big diecast brand, Hot Wheels. Hot Wheels generally was the domain of flashy fantasy racers, while Matchbox became the brand known for more realistic, down-to-earth models. The goal: a $1.00 product that was realistic, but to save Mattel royalty fees, often not based on a real car. Hot Wheels was also becoming the brand for older kids and collectors, while conversely, Matchbox was being marketed to the younger kids. “A lot of the collectors and Matchbox purists didn’t like that shift away from licensed designs,” he said. “Collectors understandably wanted more of the realism that was part of Matchbox history.”

steve moye matchbox dump truck

This dump truck was aimed squarely at Tonka’s foray into 1/64 diecast.

In total, Steve created 70 die-cast vehicles for Matchbox in his five-year stint at Mattel Mt. Laurel, plus two launchers and two diecast-related packaging designs. When one multiplies that figure by the number of vehicles each die cast tooling mold set is capable –a conservative estimate is 100,000 cyles-per-mold set– of making, it’s easy to conclude that his rolling creations easily got into the hands of millions of worldwide scale model car collectors, both young and old.

Whereas Romash sort of stumbled into his prodigious career at Mattel by turning a hobby into a job, Moye took a more calculated route. “My San Jose State University Bachelor of Science degree is in Industrial Design; before that, I attended Art Center College of Design in Pasadena CA, preceded by a correspondence course –Academy of Automobile Design- in car design,” he said. Since age 12, Steve’s career goal was to design cars, just maybe not in miniature. “Incidentally, I was the only correspondence student to actually complete the entire course. J. Bruce Bollinger, AAD’s originator and the designer of Chevy’s original Nomad, actually had to create new courses for me, and those led to my first vehicle design portfolio.”

steve moye exoto gt 40

Moye’s AutoCad work for Exoto, translating real production cars into detailed 1/18 scale models.

Prior to Mattel, he held a similar job at Paramount Industries in Philadelphia designing for the Franklin Mint and Exoto, among other clients. Automotive design conceptualization, however, wasn’t part of the process at Paramount, as their models were exclusively based on existing classics; hence, his work on die-cast classic vehicles involved technical drawings, with an occasional on-site photo shoot/documentation session for good measure. “The big challenge for ‘The Mint’ was that many of the cars were vintage ones so at times, we had to find a collector with a restored car to document and use as a guide. There were no company archives of material to work with, because many of the auto companies don’t exist anymore.”

steve moye matchbox carrying case

Moye designed this carrying case while he worked at Mattel.

Over his six-year stint at Mattel, he rarely ran into any issues with designs which closely resemble a copyrighted design. “I did a trash truck in 2005 before the Mt. Laurel operation was given notice to shut down, an original design,” Moye said. “But I later heard that one of the OEM manufacturers thought the back end of the truck looked too much like their rear crush mechanism compartment.” Aside from that, the vast majority of the designs he worked on while at Midlantic Drive in Mt. Laurel, NJ went into production with relatively few hitches. Steve still has a collection Matchbox models, many of which emanated from the entire design process; a few are shown here.

steve moye matchbox taxi 2

The final production model can take on many variants, resulting in tens or hundreds of thousands of copies.

Moye and Romash have remained in touch over the years, fondly remembering their days creating the toys and collectibles that fueled the imagination of kids everywhere. “Mattel Mount Laurel was such a great place to work. The place was staffed with good, friendly, talented and skilled people, from the executives on down to the marketers, the graphics folks, the engineers, the product planners, the separate modelmaking staff which Rob Romash was a big part of, all of the creative folks over in the Matchbox Collectibles, Tyco RC, and Tyco divisions, my hard-working graphic design compadres Christine Peterson, Jeff Osnato and John Mullane in Matchbox 1-75 and, last but not least, Midlantic Drive’s great support staff. I was sad to see it close.”

Citroën DS: A History Through Model Cars

A Guest Blog from Patrick Wehr, owner of Pat’s Modellauto and carcollectorsgarage.com and also a Curator and Champion at hobbyDB.

 

The Citroën DS19 was the successor of the Traction Avant and was first presented at the Paris Motor Show on October 5, 1955. During the first 15 minutes of the Motor Show, 743 orders for the futuristic new car were taken, and a total of 12,000 orders was reached at the end of that day. By the end of the show, after 10 days, some 80,000 cars were ordered, which was a record which stood for over 60 years, though Insiders think that those selling numbers were only a marketing trick.

 

 

The car was designed by the Italian sculptor and industrial designer Flaminio Bertoni, as well as by André Lefèbvre, a French aeronautical engineer. The futuristic hydro-pneumatic self-leveling suspension was developed by Paul Magès. The car was such a success for aesthetics and engineering that it has inspired countless scale models.

 

The car was manufactured from 1955 to 1975 as a sedan, wagon/estate, and convertible. It was also the first production car that was equipped with disc brakes.

 

The DS used hydraulics for the power steering, the brakes, the suspension, the clutch and the transmission. In fact, with all that new technology it was a very expensive car, so Citroën decided in 1957 to produce the cheaper ID19. This car would have a conventional transmission, a simplified power-braking system and lack power steering. The ID was also not as powerful or luxurious. Maximum power for the ID19 was 69hp compared to 75hp for the DS. The ID submodel was produced from 1957-1969.

In 1962 the nose was redesigned and designated as Series 2. The car was more aerodynamically efficient and had also better ventilation. It was now available with an optional set of driving lights mounted on the front fenders.

 

French President Charles de Gaulle survived an assassination attempt at Le Petit-Clamart near Paris on August 22, 1962 while in a DS. The plan was to ambush the motorcade with machine guns, disable the vehicles, and then close in for the kill. De Gaulle praised the unusual abilities of his unarmored DS with saving his life – the car was peppered with bullets, and the shots had punctured the tires, but the car could still escape at full speed.

 

From October 4, 1955 to April 24, 1975 a total of 1,456,115 cars of the D-Series were built.

 

In late 1967 another new nose design with directional headlights came, now called the Series 3. That 1968 model of the ID/DS series had four headlights under a glass canopy. The inner lights swiveled with the steering wheel. For the US market this feature was not allowed, so a version with four exposed headlights was made for the US market.

In 1970 the ID was replaced by the D Spécial and the D Super. The D Super 5 was a D Super with the DS21 engine and a 5 speed gearbox. It was produced from 1970-1975.

 

The most collectable and rare variants are the convertibles produced from 1958-1973. They were built by the French Carrossier Henri Chapron for the Citroën dealer network. Only 1,365 Convertibles were sold, due to the high price of that variant. On these, a special frame was used, which was similar but not identical to the frame of the Break variants.

 

Various variants

 

Before the war, Chapron built some custom made bodies for Talbot-Lago, Delage and Delahaye. In 1955 he turned his attention to Citroën, and he was commissioned to build a Décapotable for the French President based on a 15CV Traction. At the Paris Salon in 1958, he showed his first DS based creation, known as the Cabriolet DS19 Henri Chapron.

 

 

In addition to the range of special Citroëns, Chapron also built the Prestige and the “Usine Cabriolets” for Citroën. Chapron also built a special elongated DS for the President de Gaulle.

 

The Michelin Citroën DS PLR Break, “Fast Truck” or nicknamed “Mille Pattes,” was a tire evaluation car. It was based on a DS Break and was built in 1972 by the French tire manufacturer Michelin, who was a shareholder of Citroën. It was used on the Ladoux test-track in Clermont-Ferrand.

 

Here a DS19 from Vitesse for the 40 Anniversary of the DS (1955-1995)

 

The DS was successful in motorsports and won the Rally Monte-Carlo in 1959. The 1000 Lakes Rally was also won by a DS in 1962. In 1966, the DS won the Monte Carlo Rally again. The DS was still competitive in the 1974 London-Sahara-Munich World Cup Rally where it beat over 70 other cars, only five of which even completed the entire event.

Diecast Collector, Historian David Wright Joins hobbyDB Advisory Council

The Advisory Council at hobbyDB consists of experts on many different facets of collecting, all sharing their knowledge for the benefit of the entire site. David Wright, a noted model car collector from Storrington, England, is the latest to join the Council.

David WrightHis fascination with buses and cars began when he was nine years old. “I started collecting bus numbers while sitting on a grass bank on the main trunk road past my parent’s house to the south coast,” he said. It wasn’t until later in life that he began seriously collecting diecast. He found an old Dinky Austin van in a donation pile, and made a £5.00 donation to the charity to acquire it. “I stripped and restored it, and I was hooked. I then discovered a small shop selling old model cars, stamps and magazines near where we had recently moved in South London, and I began collecting. This means I have been hooked since 1973.”

BMC truck and car

Bakelite 1920s SunbeamHis collection now totals around 1,000 models. British sports cars, such as Allard, AC, Bristol, Jensen, Riley, TVR, Turner, and Wolseley are his primary passion. “I have given myself licence to move into models of British Motor Corporation vehicles, as I just love the red, white and blue rosette logo!” Most of his collection is 1/43 scale, although he also has a nice variety of early Lesney models. One of his favorite larger models is a 1/18 Bakelite design study prototype of a 1920s Sunbeam Roadster, seen here.

David is also a diecast historian who has published several books about collecting. He began by by focusing on lower volume makers other than diecast, who were not likely to have their own existing guides. “My books were prompted by the realisation that many of the makers of white metal and resin models, be they cars, trucks, buses, or trains, are artisans, working on their own, and their stories about how they came into this wonderful hobby needed to be known by all,” he said.

David Wright model car booksDavid Wright“It was only when I retired in 2007 that I found the time to work on the books, and now I am more busy than ever, building kits and converting models for fellow enthusiasts around the world.” He also stays busy driving a commnity bus and traveling with his wife Chris, both of whom are avid bird watchers.

His first two books cover about 170 different model makers in each volume. His first guide, about white metal models (which is sold out), took about three years of research before it was published in 2011. His follow up, a 2013 book on resin models, took about two years. “I then felt confident in my writing style and the self publishing process, together with a comprehensive network of both makers and collectors at my disposal, to work on the British Sporting Cars in Miniature book,” he said. That one was also finished in two years, available in 2015. His books are available on hobbyDB.

As for future writing, he’s taking a break from books at the moment. “I’m happy with my trilogy of books, and continue to publish regular articles on the history of particularly interesting cars, and the models made of them, “he said. “My most recent example is a comparison of the Brazilian made Brasinca, and its similarities with the Jensen Interceptor, Iso Grifo and Studebaker Avanti.”

David also has a couple of 1/1 scale classic cars: an MGA 1600MkII, and a Jensen C-V8 Mk III, both of which he drives regularly. He is also the South Downs Rep for the Jensen Owners Club and collects real car badges, and old cigarette cards of motor cars. “But there’s no space for much more!” he laughs.

David Wright

10 More Off-The-Beaten-Path, Obscure, Odd Model Car Brands

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Over the past couple of years, we have shared some brands of diecast vehicles that are off the beaten path, obscure, or just plain odd. Some of them are offshoots of famous brands, some of from other countries and never widely distributed worldwide, and some disappeared quickly for various reasons. Here’s another batch of Odd Model Car Brands that fit all of those categories and then some…

Tonka Totes

Tonka Totes Dune BuggyWhen you think of Tonka, you usually think of indestructible metal vehicles like the Mighty Dump truck. But in 1971, Tonka tried something completely different. The Totes line were all plastic, including flexible axles that were unfortunately a bit too soft. Despite the neat designs and sparkly plastic, kids were disappointed when the wheels broke off, so the line was discontinued after only a couple years.

Weird Wheels

structo weird wheels dune buggyNot to be outdone by Tonka, Structo, another brand known for rugged metal vehicles got weird in 1971. Their Weird Wheels vehicles each featured one axle with two wheels. The bodies were designed with most of the weight underneath the axle, so the cars always rode upright. The first models featured recognizable cars (VW Beetle, 1930s hot rods, a dune buggy) and the second group got a bit wackier with an airplane, UFO and caveman in a hot tub. Weird indeed!

Mini Lindy

Mini Lindy camperAmong model car kits, Lindberg tends to fall a notch below more popular brands like AMT and Revell in terms of quality and detail. In the early ‘70s, they briefly hit it big with their Mini-Lindy series. Each kit was about 1/64 scale, although each car was scaled to take advantage of the same size wheels. So the AMC Gremlin looks giant compared to the School Bus. Priced at 79 cents a kit, and available in a rainbow of colors, these models were all the rage for a few years.

Imposters

aurora imposters vwAurora had been making a name for itself in model kits and slot cars for several years when they unleashed the Imposters series in the early ’70s. The short lived offshoot consisted of three mild mannered cars… A VW Beetle, A Ford Pinto, and a 1940 Willys Coupe. When these brightly colored cars were wound up, they would move slowly for a bit… and then the body popped up, the chassis extended, and the transmogrified dragster took off quickly. These were big and heavy (bigger than 1/18 scale) and pretty impressive to see in action.

Vatutin Electromechanical Toy Factory

Vatutin FerrariNothing remarkable about this brand, really… they made a series of crudely detailed 1/43 European cars with opening features. And they were never widely available in the U.S. But that company name… Wow!

Saratov Laboratory of Minimodels

SaratovAnother company probably most noteworthy for an amazing name. Their 1/43 models of Russian marques featured modest detail and lots of opening parts (all four doors on some sedans). In truth, this lab was really just concocting rehashes of other Russian brands, most notably Radon Models (also a great name!)

System I-Leg

System I LegIsn’t that the Lego logo? The billion dollar Danish company that makes plastic building toys? Yep. Before becoming the multimedia juggernaut they are today, Lego made a series of plastic and metal vehicles from HO to 1/43 scale. From 1955-1970, new offerings were all plastic, and approximately HO scale. None of them had a single element that allowed you to attach a Minifig, although their display cases did.

Wannatoy

WannatoysWannatoy? Of course you do! This company made incredibly simple plastic cars and trucks… A car might consist of a one part body and a pair of single piece wheel and axle assemblies. For something more elaborate, their “Bubble Top Coupe” included a fourth piece, the clear canopy.

VinylLine

Vinylline Mercury CougarHere’s another company that offered single piece bodied cars, but with more accurate detail and scaling than you usually see. And they made some desirable cars like the BMW 2500 and first generation Mercury Cougar. Color choices were odd (yellow wheels?) and they tended to warp, which is common for this kind of toy.

Shot Wheels

Shot Wheels

wacky packages shot wheels stickerSince the late 1960s, Topps has produced Wacky Packages, a series of stickers and cards that feature parodies of famous products, including “Shot Wheels” cars. (“Cheapest heaps in the world! Guaranteed to self destruct!”) The sticker only showed one model, the lemon-shaped “Lemlin,” but over the years, various customizers have built real models featuring punny twists on the names of real Hot Wheels cars (Squirting Image, Dead Baron, etc.). These were not just one offs, either… in some cases, the cars had a limited run of 300 or so produced models, selling for more than a lot of Super Treasure Hunts or other collector favorites. To people of a certain age, these are the perfect combination of nostalgia and snotty humor.

More Colorful Model Car Brands You Might Not Have Heard Of

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

A while ago, we shared a list of unusual Model Car Brands with strange histories. The response we got was terrific, so we did another list. Since then, we’ve dug up enough other odd brands to compile yet another batch of model and toy cars you may have forgotten (if you ever heard of them at all.) All in all, this round of models comes from seven different countries if you’re counting!

Dream Become True

Dream Become TrueNo, that’s not a typo, it’s just clunky translation. This company started as “Dream Become True”, possibly playing off Chinese auto company Build Your Dream. They then changed it to “Dream Becomes True” which is still kinda clunky. Their main offerings are Model Cars in 1/32 and 1/24 scale, which are fairly detailed and include working parts as well as lights and sounds.They also make some pretty basic models of mostly high end exotic cars in 1/64, including about the only model of the Koenigsegg CCX available and, even if the doors don’t open correctly.

Gay Toys

gay toys school busSimple, inexpensive toys molded in color… what could go wrong? The sheer coincidence of the name unfortunately became a headache for the company, (parental objections, etc.) so they didn’t produce many models under this brand. And well, when you try to do a search online for them, well, just make sure you keep “safe search” turned on. Even better, look for them on hobbyDB instead.

Quiralu

QuiraluQuiralu models were made in France in the 1950s and ’60s and included several microcars. The company and their models went into hibernation for many years until the original molds were resurrected in the late ’90s. They were used again to make a limited number of models with the same body castings but slightly different tinplate base and window glazing. The colors for each generation are often loud and fun.

Radon

radon model carThe name Radon probably doesn’t have any strange connotations in Russian like it does in other parts of the world. These cars are cold war relics, from a Russian state factory. They are mostly 1:43 scale diecast Soviet vehicles, including marques that aren’t likely to be reproduced in any other country. As a bonus, they do a lot of limos and other service vehicles, which are always neat to look at.

Rextoys

rextoysThis Portugal based company is best known for their models of 1930s American cars. Detail is simple, but the cars sometimes come with well-known passengers… You can get the Cadillac V16 Convertible with President Franklin D. Roosevelt riding in the back, or, if you prefer, Italian actress Cicciolina. But not together, even though that would be really awesome!

Simba

SimbaThey Farbwechsel when they Temperaturwechsel! Simba, despite the very elephantine name, was a German company that made mostly models of German marques. Their color change cars were revolutionary at the time, as they were among the first where the color depended on the temperature of the water.

Smelly Speeders

Maisto Smelly SpeedersSure, these look like standard Majorette models. Except they have some odd color combinations, especially the brightly colored tires. And when you open them, well, the reason for the name becomes obvious. Each car was scented in generally favorable aromas such as coconut or strawberry, not unlike those emanating from your car air freshener. Unfortunately, if you find one in the package, there’s a good chance the scent has worn off over the decades.

Tomte-Laerdal

Tomte-LaerdalStarting in the 1940s, this company produced primarily models of German cars but also one of an American military Jeep. Bodies were made of a single piece of rubbery plastic in a single color (some look kind of swirly) with a separate clear windshield in some cases. Details were crude at best. Later models mostly eschewed the clear parts for solid molded windows. Based on their Datsun 240Z model, it’s safe to say they were still making these at least into the early 1970s.

Starmada

StarmadaStarmada is fairly new to the model car business, debuting at the International Toy Fair in Nuremberg in 2009. They offer mostly European marques with a heavy emphasis on Mercedes-Benz. These are sold under the name Brekina in many countries. Two really neat things about them… they make a lot of odd body styles such as limousines and hearses. And if you can believe it from the photos, these cars are 1/87 scale, some of the most detailed cars you can get for an HO railroad.

Victory Industrial Products

Victory Industrial ProductsVictory Industrial Products or VIP was a small company that began its life during the second world war in a boat house which stood directly alongside Kingston Bridge in Hampton Wick near London. It was founded by two men, Captain William John Warren and Gerald Fenner Burgoyne who set up the company to manufacture small electrical components for the Ministry of Supply. Not quite nanotechnology, but the components were useful for making model trains, 1:20 plastic models and 1:32 slot cars. They were mostly odd, utilitarian cars, but charming in a huge way.

Do you have any favorite odd brands we haven’t covered in these articles yet? Let us know in the comments!